Hawaii: Urban Honolulu
> Population: 348,985
> 5-yr. Population change: +1.1% (state: +2.1%)
> Median home value: $683,000 (state: $615,300)
> Median household income: $71,465 (state: $81,275)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 3.7% (state: 4.3%)
Home to nearly 350,000 people, Honolulu is the most populous city in Hawaii. It also ranks as the best place to live in the state. A relatively walkable city with reliable public transportation, over one-quarter of workers commute without needing to rely on a personal vehicle, an option many Americans do not have.
Though Hawaii’s economy has been negatively impacted more than most states by the COVID-19 pandemic, in more normal times, Honolulu boasts a strong job market. The average unemployment rate over the last five years in the city was just 3.7% — below both the comparable 4.3% state rate and 5.3% national jobless rate.
> Population: 101,905
> 5-yr. Population change: +25.8% (state: +7.4%)
> Median home value: $274,900 (state: $212,300)
> Median household income: $71,389 (state: $55,785)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 3.7% (state: 4.3%)
Meridian, a city of about 102,000 residents just west of Boise, ranks as the best place to live in Idaho. The city has a strategic growth plan designed to allow for sustainable expansion and promote industry without sacrificing quality of life. Recently, FedEx opened a 120,000 square foot distribution facility in the area, bringing several hundred jobs with it. Over the last five years, an average of just 3.7% of the local labor force were unemployed, below both the comparable 4.3% state and 5.3% national jobless rates.
Incomes in Meridian are also far higher than they are in much of the state. The typical area household earns $71,389 a year, well above the median income of $55,785 across Idaho. As is often the case in areas with strong job markets and high incomes, Meridian is also safe. There were only 159 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the city in 2019, compared to 224 per 100,000 in Idaho and 367 per 100,000 nationwide.
> Population: 12,428
> 5-yr. Population change: +0.5% (state: -0.8%)
> Median home value: $1,091,700 (state: $194,500)
> Median household income: $250,000+ (state: $65,886)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 2.4% (state: 5.9%)
Winnetka, a small village along the shore of Lake Michigan about 20 miles north of downtown Chicago, ranks as the best place to live in Illinois. Winnetka residents have easy access to the largest city in the Midwest with a commuter line that goes directly downtown. Partially as a result, over a quarter of commuters in the area use public transit to get to work and do not have to rely on a car. As is often the case in municipalities outside major urban areas, unemployment is low in Winnetka. The village’s five-year average jobless rate of 2.4% is less than half the comparable national figure of 5.9%.
The village and surrounding county also boasts a high per capita concentration of restaurants, bars, and theater companies as well as a total of 27 parks that span nearly 250 acres.
> Population: 97,464
> 5-yr. Population change: +16.8% (state: +1.9%)
> Median home value: $333,200 (state: $141,700)
> Median household income: $112,765 (state: $56,303)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 2.5% (state: 4.8%)
Carmel, a city of just under 100,000 residents, located north of Indianapolis, is the best place to live in Indiana. In addition to attractions in nearby Indianapolis, Carmel residents have access to a number of culture and entertainment options in their hometown, including museums, breweries, parks, bike trails, public art, and shopping. The city also has a thriving job market, with a five-year average unemployment rate of just 2.5%, nearly half the 4.8% comparable state jobless rate.
Carmel is also a safe place to live. There were only 32 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the area in 2019, a fraction of the comparable 371 per 100,000 state rate and 367 per 100,000 national rate.
Iowa: North Liberty
> Population: 18,829
> 5-yr. Population change: +29.8% (state: +2.0%)
> Median home value: $220,800 (state: $147,800)
> Median household income: $83,949 (state: $60,523)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 1.1% (state: 3.7%)
North Liberty ranks as the best place to live in Iowa. Located just north of Iowa City, North Liberty residents have access to jobs in a larger nearby city. Partially as a result, the local unemployment rate has averaged just 1.1% over the last five years, well below the five-year state rate of 3.7% and national rate of 5.3%. North Liberty is also an affordable place to own a home. The typical area home is worth $220,800, just 2.6 times more than the median annual household income in the area of $83,949. Meanwhile, across the United States, the typical home is worth 3.5 times more than median household income.
The area’s affordable housing and a strong job market may partially explain the rapid population growth in North Liberty. Over the last five years, the number of people living in the city increased by nearly 30%. Iowa’s population increased by just 2.0% over the same period.